Marijuana business grows as 4 more states will attempt to legalize
With fall approaching, four states — North Dakota, Michigan, Utah and Missouri — will vote on whether or not marijuana should be legalized. In 2012, Colorado and Washington, D.C. were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana use, with California following suit for medical use. Since then, there has been a total of 30 states that have legalized medical marijuana use and nine states that have legalized recreational marijuana use. Alaska was one of the first states to legalize pot. The state’s government believed it would cause dispensaries to quickly open and a new industry to boom.
However, this wasn’t the case, since the first dispensaries weren’t opened until two years after the law passed. It doesn’t help that Alaska is a large state with a majority of its small population residing in Anchorage.
The first business that opened in Alaska was called Herbal Outfitters, located 300 miles away from Anchorage, which makes purchasing cannabis goods nearly impossible. When Anchorage finally started opening its own cannabis shops in 2017, there was too high of a demand, causing the shops to sell out instantly.
Additionally, students in Alaskan rural schools were participating in illegal sales of cannabis gummy bears, sold for $5 each. When marijuana was first introduced, it was thought that illegal sales would decrease, but Alaska’s educational department shows otherwise.
According to Rolling Stone, tourists who flock to Southeast Alaska have few chances of actually smoking the Alaskan pot due to strict business layout regulations. There are few marijuana businesses, and like with alcohol, people are prohibited from consuming it in public. Tourists have few options when it comes to smoking and fewer options when it comes to buying. In conclusion, it’s pretty easy to find weed when living in Anchorage, but supply runs out quickly.
When Alaska first allowed recreational marijuana use, businesses were expected to open the next day. In 2018, businesses are still running low on supply, and with a smaller market, Alaska has a much smaller industry compared with Colorado’s.
Unlike Alaska, Colorado stated that people with specific health problems could “possess up to six marijuana plants and carry up to two ounces of the drug with a prescription from a doctor” in 2000. Fourteen years later, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use for any adult over the age of 21 to ingest. Additionally, people could travel with or gift up to one ounce of marijuana.
Colorado has not seen an increase in crime when marijuana was first introduced. Although crime has not increased, officers’ jobs haven’t gotten any easier.
There are no breathalyzer-like tests for marijuana, so officers are unable to tell whether or not a driver is high. In 2014, 12 percent of DWIs were caused by marijuana. Also, unlike alcohol, marijuana-infused treats are hard to detect.
In the upcoming voting season, lawmakers will look at states like Colorado and Alaska to see whether the effects of marijuana are beneficial to the state. Similar to Colorado, North Dakota sits on an initiative that would allow adults 21 and over to purchase and consume marijuana.
Over half of North Dakota supports this initiative. If it passes, two cultivators and eight dispensaries will open in the mostly Republican state.
Michigan is also pushing for adult use. In 2008, Michigan used to have a “gray market” when it came to the marijuana industry. Many businesses were not complying with regulations, but in 2016, lawmakers passed a law that granted protection to patients and businesses.
Like California, 61 percent of Michigan supports the initiative for adult use. In Utah, the medical initiative stresses that only patients with certain conditions should be allowed to have marijuana. With this strict initiative, it will be hard to pass on the ballot.
Unlike Michigan and North Dakota, smoking is banned and patients can only grow cannabis if they live 100 miles from a dispensary in Utah.
Some think that the marijuana industry will clash with the beliefs of the Mormon population in the state. Between 72 and 77 percent of the Utah population support the initiative, however.
Lastly, Missouri has three initiatives on the ballot. Two are constitutional amendments from New Approach Missouri and Find the Cures.
In the former, doctors are given the authority to decide whether or not a patient qualifies for the drug with a tax rate of 4 percent, while the latter amendment is much more restrictive and specifies a list of diseases that the patient must have in order to qualify, also coming with a higher tax rate of 15 percent.
A third approach follows a statutory law from Missourians for Patient Cure, which also has restrictions, but a lower 2 percent tax rate.
If all four states pass their initiatives, medical marijuana use will be legal in 32 states and recreational use in 11 states. For now, these four states serve as the tipping point that could potentially bring down federal prohibition.